Mar 24, 2011

Water Quality in Haiti is Improving, Non-Profit Reports

Malteser International has worked to provide clean drinking water in wake of earthquake

In Haiti, a country where cholera threatens hundreds of thousands, there is a special reason to celebrate World Water Day this year: "Haiti's water quality has, by and large, increased," reported Jelena Kaifenheim, Haiti project coordinator for Malteser International, the relief service of the Order of Malta for worldwide humanitarian aid. This result has been confirmed by the Haitian water authority, which has conducted weekly analyses of water samples since January.

Clean drinking water and sanitary facilities are the most important weapons in the fight against cholera. Aid organizations such as Malteser International have been working to give Haitians access to those resources. Malteser International has distributed more than 3.24 million disinfection tabs for water treatment, 688,800 disinfectant soap bars and 33,650 drinking water containers. Together with the THW (German Technical Relief), Malteser International improved and disinfected drainage systems, standpipes and sanitary facilities. All of these measures benefit more than 100,000 people from four locations, giving them access to nearly 65 million liters of drinking water.

After the earthquake in January 2010, the island's already precarious water supply system was completely destroyed. In October, cholera began to spread through the country. Through hygiene campaigns, Malteser International informs the population about how the infectious disease is transmitted, and how they can protect themselves against it. According to official statistics, 248,442 Haitians have been infected with the disease, and 4,627 of those infected have died. "We fear those numbers will begin to rise again in April and May, with the start of the rainy season, especially since hundreds of thousands of people still sleep in permeable tents and have to live without sanitary facilities," Kaifenheim said. This is especially true for the refugee camps in the so-called "red cholera zone.” Because of their terrible hygienic conditions, these areas have been classified as high-risk for cholera contamination. One such area is the camp Bwa 9 in Cité Soleil/Port-au-Prince.

To mark World Water Day, Malteser International organized a drawing competition with 40 children aged ten to 13 years from this small camp in Cité Soleil. "In that camp, the access to water is quite difficult, as they have no supply of their own," Kaifenheim said. All participants received a packet of 10 aqua tabs each, enough for 250 liters of drinking water per child. The ten best pictures will receive a small drawing set (colored pens and a booklet), and the best picture will win a major prize with a large drawing set with watercolor paints.